Galileo Galilei was vacationing in Venice on the chill night of May 11, 1606, when Pope Paul V excommunicated the city’s entire government. As further punishment for its militancy abroad, Venice was placed under interdict, meaning Catholic priests could not remain on the land. “They walked to the ships,” Galileo scoffed, “each with a crucifix hanging off him … expelled, much to the sorrow of the many women devoted to them.”

Five years later, Galileo was in Rome. Hailed as a genius of astronomy for his use of the telescope, he was granted an audience before the very Pope who had threatened his beloved Venice. Leaning down to kiss Paul’s feet, he was yanked back. “His Holiness would not have me speak kneeling,” Galileo recalled, “for I was simply too extraordinary.”